7. Neighborhood and Global Stewardship

This page has articles from 2008–present

See also articles from 1998–2007


Non-chronological links:

To...Misc Resources

Aquabarrel: Simple rain collecting and storage device - attaches to downspouts.<


Excellent Packaging and Supply.

Forums for reusing items online.

Growing Power: a nonprofit organization supporting people to provide healthy, high-quality, safe and affordable food for people in all communities. Promotes development of Community Food Systems that help people grow, process, market and distribute food in a sustainable manner.

The Story of Stuff - From its extraction through sale, use and disposal, all the stuff in our lives affects communities at home and abroad, yet most of this is hidden from view. The Story of Stuff is a 20-minute look at the underside of our production and consumption patterns.

The Nature Conservancy - Conservation easements.
A conservation easement is a voluntary, legally binding agreement that limits certain types of uses or prevents development from taking place on a piece of property now and in the future, while protecting the property's ecological or open-space values.

Life cycle assessment of supermarket carrier bags: a review of the bags available in 2006. Environment Agency (for protection of the environment in England and Wales).

2021-07-21. [https://www.nytimes.com/2021/07/21/climate/maine-recycling-law-EPR.html] - Maine Will Make Companies Pay for Recycling. Here’s How It Works. Source: By Winston Choi-Schagrin, The New York Times. Excerpt: The law aims to take the cost burden of recycling away from taxpayers. One environmental advocate said the change could be “transformative.” ...five years ago, China stopped buying most of America’s recycling, and dozens of cities across the United States suspended or weakened their recycling programs. ...Now, Maine has implemented a new law that could transform the way packaging is recycled by requiring manufacturers, rather than taxpayers, to cover the cost. Nearly a dozen states have been considering similar regulations and Oregon is about to sign its own version in coming weeks. ...Nearly all European Union member states, as well as Japan, South Korea and five Canadian provinces, have laws like these and they have seen their recycling rates soar and their collection programs remain resilient, even in the face of a collapse in the global recycling market caused in part by China’s decision in 2017 to stop importing other nations’ recyclables... 

2021-07-01. [https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2021/07/could-plastic-eating-microbes-take-bite-out-recycling-problem] - Could plastic-eating microbes take a bite out of the recycling problem? Source: By Warren Cornwall, Science Magazine. Excerpt: Cordova, a marine biologist, collects samples of the slime and brings them back to his lab at Indonesia’s Research Center for Oceanography, where he plans to culture the microbes and feed them only plastic to see what thrives. “We are hoping that we find the most effective microbes that can eat or degrade the plastic,” he says. Researchers across the globe are on the same quest. They are looking for plastic-munching microbes in searing hot springs in Yellowstone National Park, remote island beaches in the Pacific Ocean, and a plastic recycling factory in Japan, among other places. Some scientists have already found bacteria that wield enzymes able to break down a common plastic used to make water bottles and clothing.... 

2021-05-11. The Price They Pay for Your Perfect Vacation Photo. By Priyanka Runwal, The New York Times. Excerpt: Scientists are concerned about unregulated feeding of ocean wildlife by tour operators. ...Before the pandemic, ...boats would flock to Bottom Harbor and tourists would hop into its shallow turquoise waters holding squid morsels in their hands or on wooden skewers. The turtles would then grab the snacks as the visitors snapped Instagram-worthy images. ...The practice is known as provisioning, and it’s an easy meal for the shelled creatures. But conservation biologists have expressed concern in a number of recent published scientific studies about what this food source means for the physical well-being and natural behavior of not just these turtles, but other marine creatures, from tiny reef fish to giant sharks. ...“Suddenly a very independent and solitary animal is in close contact with everybody else, which means it’s easier for them to get infected with parasites or viruses,” said Valeria Senigaglia, a marine biologist at Australia’s Murdoch University. It also encourages wild animals to eat regularly rather than intermittently, and sometimes discourages tracking and hunting of prey. Habituation, aggression and loss of fear toward humans typically follows, which could endanger the animals.... [https://www.nytimes.com/2021/05/11/science/tourists-turtles-sharks-photography.html

2021-04-21. New process makes ‘biodegradable’ plastics truly compostable. By Robert Sanders, Berkeley News. Excerpt: Biodegradable plastics have been advertised as one solution to the plastic pollution problem bedeviling the world, but today’s “compostable” plastic bags, utensils and cup lids don’t break down during typical composting and contaminate other recyclable plastics, creating headaches for recyclers. Most compostable plastics, made primarily of the polyester known as polylactic acid, or PLA, end up in landfills and last as long as forever plastics. University of California, Berkeley, scientists have now invented a way to make these compostable plastics break down more easily, with just heat and water, within a few weeks, solving a problem that has flummoxed the plastics industry and environmentalists.... [https://news.berkeley.edu/2021/04/21/new-process-makes-biodegradable-plastics-truly-compostable/

2021-02-24. Chemists close in on greener way to make plastics. By Robert F. Service, Science Magazine. Excerpt: Plastics are a climate problem. Making precursors for common plastics, such as ethylene and carbon monoxide (CO), consumes fossil fuels and releases plenty of carbon dioxide (CO2). In recent years, chemists have devised bench-top reactors called electrochemical cells that aim to reverse the process, starting with water and waste CO2 from industrial processes and using renewable electricity to turn them into feedstocks for plastics. But that green vision has a practical problem: The cells often consume highly alkaline additives that themselves take energy to make.... [https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2021/02/chemists-close-greener-way-make-plastics

2021-02-09. Prozac turns guppies into ‘zombies’. By Warren Cornwall, Science Magazine. Excerpt: Prozac might need a new warning label: “Caution: This antidepressant may turn fish into zombies.” Researchers have found that long-term exposure to the drug makes guppies act more alike, wiping out some of the typical behavioral differences that distinguish them. That could be a big problem when the medication—technically named fluoxetine—washes into streams and rivers, potentially making fish populations more vulnerable to predators and other threats. In recent decades, scientists have uncovered a plethora of ways that pharmaceuticals affect animals in the lab and in the wild, such as by altering courtshipmigration, and anxiety. The drugs find their way into the environment through water that pours from sewage treatment plants, which is rarely filtered to remove the chemicals... [https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2021/02/prozac-turns-guppies-zombies

2020-12-18. Targeting U.S. wetland restoration could make cleaning up water much cheaper. By Erik Stokstad, Science Magazine. Excerpt: Wetlands do a great job of filtering and cleaning up polluted water. But in the United States, many of those natural filters have been destroyed: filled in, paved over, or drained to become farm fields. Now, a study suggests policymakers responsible for managing wetlands could do a better job by strategically locating restored or created wetlands near sources of pollution, such as farms and livestock operations. Such a targeted approach would remove much more nitrogen—which pollutes groundwater, lakes, and coastal waters—than current scattershot policies, the researchers say. The new study quantifies how much nitrogen is removed by wetlands all over the country, providing a new estimate of their contribution to water quality both nationwide and locally. ...says Patrick Inglett, a biogeochemist at the University of Florida. “This gives us so much more focus as to where wetlands need to be located.” When nitrogen-based fertilizer washes off farm fields, it ends up in streams. This nitrogen stimulates algal blooms in rivers, lakes, and coastal waters, which can cause oxygen-poor “dead zones” that harm fisheries. Excess nitrogen, which comes from livestock manure as well, also contaminates groundwater as nitrate. Wetlands are effective at removing the nitrogen because they have carbon-rich and oxygen-poor sediments that are ideal breeding grounds for bacteria that convert biologically active forms of nitrogen—the kind that would stimulate the growth of algae—into inert nitrogen gas that is released to the atmosphere. ...Over the past 30 years ...the U.S. Department of Agriculture has paid more than $4 billion to farmers to protect wetlands; in part, the funds help cover the money farmers lose by not converting wetlands to crop fields.... [https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2020/12/targeting-us-wetland-restoration-could-make-cleaning-water-much-cheaper

2020-12-09. Human Activity Makes India’s Coastlines More Vulnerable.By Matthew Stonecash, Eos/AGU. Excerpt: Researchers propose the creation of an anthropogenic vulnerability index to help guide conservation policy decisions. ...Sindhuja Kasthala was studying land use and land cover in the coastal regions of India when she noticed an alarming trend. “I found that although we have coastal rules, the land use kept changing very fast,” said Kasthala. “I thought, instead of just studying the existing vulnerability types, I would come up with a new type of vulnerability—anthropogenic vulnerability—and link it to these policies.” ...For the anthropogenic index, Kasthala identified habitat and land use changes, resource exploitation, pollution, the introduction of nonindigenous species, development, and tourism as the key factors. Each of these factors has one or more corresponding indicators. For example, loss of wetlands and aquaculture expansion are both indicators of land use change.... [https://eos.org/articles/human-activity-makes-indias-coastlines-more-vulnerable

2020-12-08. Human-sparked wildfires are more destructive than those caused by nature. By Tess Joosse, Science Magazine. Excerpt: A wayward smoke bomb from a gender reveal party sparked a major blaze near Los Angeles in September, just one of many recent wildfires ignited by people. Now, an analysis of high-resolution satellite data from hundreds of California wildfires shows human-caused blazes spread much faster and kill more trees than ones ignited by lightning. The findings highlight how fires that start differently can behave in distinct ways, with effects far beyond the amount of land torched, says Sean Parks, a fire ecologist with the Rocky Mountain Research Station’s Aldo Leopold Wilderness Research Institute, who was not involved with the study. “This focus on high severity rather than just area burned is important.” Fire has always been a part of California’s natural history. But several centuries of human settlement have created new conditions that promote its spread. Studies have shown human ignition is to blame for 84% of all wildfires in the United States, and 97% of all those that threaten homes. Human-sparked fires always seemed more extreme, says Stijn Hantson, a fire ecologist at the University of California, Irvine, who led the new research. But quantitative measurements of how fast they spread and their impacts on ecosystems in California had not been explored, he notes. To probe those differences, Hantson and colleagues compiled daily high-resolution satellite data for 214 wildfires that burned in California between 2012 and 2018. They drew perimeters around detected hot spots for each wildfire from day to day. Then, the researchers measured the distance between each day’s perimeter to the next day’s hot spots to calculate on average how fast the fire grew daily until it was extinguished. Human-sparked fires typically spread about 1.83 kilometers per day, more than twice as fast as the 0.83 kilometers per day for lightning-induced burns, the team reports today at a virtual meeting of the American Geophysical Union.... [https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2020/12/human-sparked-wildfires-are-more-destructive-those-caused-nature

2020-11-25. Illegal Tampering by Diesel Pickup Owners Is Worsening Pollution, E.P.A. Says. By Coral Davenport, The New York Times. Excerpt: WASHINGTON — The owners and operators of more than half a million diesel pickup trucks have been illegally disabling their vehicles’ emissions control technology over the past decade, allowing excess emissions equivalent to 9 million extra trucks on the road, a new federal report has concluded. ...In terms of the pollution impact in the United States, “This is far more alarming and widespread than the Volkswagen scandal,” said Drew Kodjak, executive director of the International Council on Clean Transportation, the research group that first alerted the E.P.A. of the illegal Volkswagen technology. “Because these are trucks, the amount of pollution is far, far higher,” he said. ...The E.P.A. focused just on devices installed in heavy pickup trucks, such as the Chevrolet Silverado and the Dodge Ram 2500, about 15 percent of which appear to have defeat devices installed. But such devices — commercially available and marketed as a way to improve vehicle performance — almost certainly have been installed in millions of other vehicles.... [https://www.nytimes.com/2020/11/25/climate/diesel-trucks-air-pollution.html

2020-10-01. Why ‘Biodegradable’ Isn’t What You Think. By John Schwartz, The New York Times. Excerpt: You care about the planet, and would like to avoid bottles and other goods made of single-use plastic. But it’s complicated. Choosing products with packaging that claims to be “biodegradable” or “compostable” might mean that they degrade only under special conditions, and could complicate recycling efforts, said Jason Locklin, the director of the New Materials Institute at the University of Georgia. “It’s tremendously confusing, not just to the consumer, but even to many scientists,” he said. ...Corn-based plastic. It doesn’t come from petroleum. But in a landfill, it might be just as bad. ...Paper, of course, is recyclable — as long as it is just paper. However, paper-based bottles and containers tend to be made with several layers of materials other than paper, including plastic or foil, to form barriers. One paper bottle maker’s website calls 100 percent biodegradability a “goal.” ...Some fast-casual restaurants use bowls designed and marketed to be compostable. They are made from bagasse, a fiber produced as a byproduct from sugar cane mills. ...while your bowl may be compostable, if you don’t compost at home you have to throw it into a dedicated composting bin in the restaurant, or use a composting service. ...PHA, or polyhydroxyalkanoate, has been the next big thing in biodegradability for years. This bioplastic, which can be produced by bacteria, has promising properties: Research suggests it can break down in conventional landfills. In ocean water, it will degrade within a few years, a fraction of the 450 years that it takes standard plastic. Producing the material economically, however, has been a technical challenge.... [https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/10/01/climate/biodegradable-containers.html

2020-09-17. How trucking eels is reviving a river. By Clare Fieseler, The Washington Post. Excerpt: American eels. They’re having a good year — a good decade, in fact — continuing their unlikely comeback in the largest river on the East Coast, with help from daily truck rides. For more than a decade, biologists have been trapping baby eels in the Susquehanna River and trucking them past four hydroelectric dams to release them in freshwater creeks upstream. Dams interrupt the natural migration routes of the eels, which are born in the Chesapeake Bay and then swim upriver, sometimes hundreds of miles, into freshwater streams, where they grow into adulthood before eventually returning to the bay. ...The idea of trapping and physically relocating a species — in this case, moving eels around physical obstacles — is gaining new interest as the planet warms and causes some plant and animal species to struggle in their native habitats. Moving them to a more hospitable home, also known as assisted migration, may be one way to save some species as the climate changes.... [https://www.washingtonpost.com/climate-solutions/2020/09/17/climate-change-assisted-migration/

2020-09-04. East Africa Invests in Strategies to Manage E-Waste. By Hope Mafaranga, Eos/AGU. Excerpt: As Uganda develops its e-waste policy, neighboring Rwanda establishes a broad-based plan involving incentives and high-tech facilities. ...E-waste describes everything from the electronic components of large household appliances (such as refrigerators and air conditioners) to personal products such as cell phones, personal stereos, and computers. ...In Uganda, this e-waste ends up in landfills. ...Old electronic equipment contains toxic materials, and some of them are persistent organic pollutants,” said Naomi Namara Karekaho, a development communicator and educator with Uganda’s National Environment Management Authority. ...Rwanda Moves Ahead in East Africa in E-Waste Management. ...Rwanda’s National e-Waste Management Policy provides for enactment of specific legislation for management and disposal of e-waste to safeguard human life and the environment. In developing the policy, Rwandan officials considered international conventions such as the Basel Conventionon the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and Their Disposal, the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants, the World Charter for Nature, the Vienna Convention for the Protection of the Ozone Layer, and the Millennium Development Goals. Olivier Mbera, country general manager of EnviroServe Rwanda, explained how Rwanda approached the creation of its e-waste policy. First, the country conducted an initial inventory to assess the e-waste situation and develop a legal framework for what was needed to address it. The framework is still relied on, even though the recycling plant is now operational.... [https://eos.org/articles/east-africa-invests-in-strategies-to-manage-e-waste]  

2020-09-03. It’s not just cars that make pollution. It’s the roads they drive on, too. By Erik Stokstad, Science Magazine. Excerpt: The smell of summer in Los Angeles, or any major city, is often tinged with asphalt. A freshly paved road or a new tar roof doesn’t just wrinkle your nose, however: A new study suggests fresh asphalt is a significant, yet overlooked, source of air pollution. In fact, the material’s contribution to one kind of particulate air pollution could rival or even exceed that of cars and trucks. ...The greatest amount of semivolatile organic compounds escaped when the pavement was heated to 140°C, the temperature of road-paving, the team reports in Science Advances. Emissions fell as the asphalt cooled, but remained constant and significant at 60°C, a typical temperature for asphalt in Los Angeles during the summer, for the duration of the 3-day experiment. This suggests that asphalt could be a long-lasting source of pollution, Gentner says. Sunshine was also important. Even moderate light caused a large increase in emissions regardless of temperature, although the reason is not clear. For road asphalt, emissions increased as much as 300% in moderate light. ...It’s not necessarily the case that asphalt roads cause more total air pollution than cars, however. Gentner notes that vehicles also release harmful particles from combustion and exhaust gases that form ozone.... [https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2020/09/it-s-not-just-cars-make-pollution-it-s-roads-they-drive-too

2020-08-31. When Fashion is Fungal. By Jessica Wolfrom, The Washington Post. Excerpt: Textiles have a big carbon footprint and then clog landfills when discarded. Could biodegradable clothes be a solution? Fungus gets a bad rap. ...The word itself conjures up the notion of mold and decay — the slow ending of something alive. But increasingly, scientists are using mycelium, the threadlike vegetative roots of fungus, to create everything from plastics to packaging materials to plant-based meats, even scaffolding to grow new organs. And now, mycelium is starting to show up in closets as a nature-based material for clothes, shoes and bags slung over shoulders. A new crop of manufacturers are harnessing mycelium to create leather-like materials without the cow. While their products are not yet on the mass market, they’re demonstrating that durable clothing and accessories can be derived from fungi — which is neither plant nor animal — at a lower carbon cost than traditional animal hides or plastics. The fashion industry is the world’s second-most polluting business, behind oil, according to the United Nations. The industry consumes huge quantities of water and produces 10 percent of global carbon emissions — more than all international air travel and maritime shipping combined. Not only does the production of textiles and leather pose environmental problems, so does their disposal. Fast fashion, inexpensive clothes frequently made from oil-based textiles that are designed to be worn briefly, has only compounded the problem. In 1960, Americans tossed 1,710 tons of textiles into landfills, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. By 2017, that amount ballooned to 11,150 tons.... [https://www.washingtonpost.com/climate-solutions/2020/08/31/fashion-musrhooms-mycelium-climate/

See also New York Times article, That Mushroom Motorcycle Jacket Will Never Go Out of Style [https://www.nytimes.com/2020/09/16/science/fungus-leather.html]

2020-08-30. Big Oil Is in Trouble. Its Plan: Flood Africa With Plastic. By Hiroko Tabuchi, Michael Corkery and Carlos Mureithi, The New York Times. Excerpt: Confronting a climate crisis that threatens the fossil fuel industry, oil companies are racing to make more plastic. But they face two problems: Many markets are already awash with plastic, and few countries are willing to be dumping grounds for the world’s plastic waste. The industry thinks it has found a solution to both problems in Africa. ...an industry group representing the world’s largest chemical makers and fossil fuel companies is lobbying to influence United States trade negotiations with Kenya, one of Africa’s biggest economies, to reverse its strict limits on plastics — including a tough plastic-bag ban. It is also pressing for Kenya to continue importing foreign plastic garbage, a practice it has pledged to limit. ...“We anticipate that Kenya could serve in the future as a hub for supplying U.S.-made chemicals and plastics to other markets in Africa through this trade agreement,” Ed Brzytwa, the director of international trade for the American Chemistry Council, wrote in an April 28 letter to the Office of the United States Trade Representative. ...The plastics proposal reflects an oil industry contemplating its inevitable decline as the world fights climate change. Profits are plunging amid the coronavirus pandemic, and the industry is fearful that climate change will force the world to retreat from burning fossil fuels. Producers are scrambling to find new uses for an oversupply of oil and gas. Wind and solar power are becoming increasingly affordable, and governments are weighing new policies to fight climate change by reducing the burning of fossil fuels. Pivoting to plastics, the industry has spent more than $200 billion on chemical and manufacturing plants in the United States over the past decade. But the United States already consumes as much as 16 times more plastic than many poor nations, and a backlash against single-use plastics has made it tougher to sell more at home.... [https://www.nytimes.com/2020/08/30/climate/oil-kenya-africa-plastics-trade.html
2020-06-11. Thousands of Tons of Microplastics Are Falling from the Sky. By Scott Hershberger, Scientific American. Excerpt: Carried by the wind, dust particles from places such as the Sahara Desert can float halfway around the world before settling to the ground. As the plastics discarded by humans break down into tiny pieces in the environment, they, too, drift through the atmosphere. ...Researchers spent more than a year collecting microplastics from 11 national parks and wilderness areas in the western U.S. ...the results, published on Thursday in Science [https://science.sciencemag.org/content/368/6496/1257], reveal the sheer scale of the problem: more than 1,000 metric tons of microplastics—the weight of 120 million to 300 million plastic water bottles—fall on protected lands in the country’s western region each year. The new findings add to scientists’ concern over microplastic pollution’s potential impacts on the environment and human health. ...Plastics in the environment “carry all sorts of pesticides, heavy metals and all the other chemicals that we've made over time,” he adds. “They're going to carry them directly into our lungs.” ...Janice Brahney, a watershed scientist at Utah State University and lead author of the new study, initially set out to investigate how dust carries nutrients, not plastic. But after peering into her microscope and seeing colorful beads and fibers among the bits of dust, she refocused her efforts. ... The particles and fibers they captured originated as carpeting, paint, cosmetic products, camping gear, and more. But the largest contribution came from clothing. ...The scientists found microplastics in almost every sample they collected. In total, 4 percent of the identifiable dust particles were plastic. Brahney and her colleagues “immediately realized the gravity of what we were seeing,” she says. “That was a moment of being just completely astounded.”... [https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/thousands-of-tons-of-microplastics-are-falling-from-the-sky/ ] See also article in Science [https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2020/06/plastic-dust-blowing-us-national-parks-more-1000-tons-each-year] and New York Times article [https://www.nytimes.com/2020/06/11/climate/airborne-plastic-pollution.html].

2020-05-19. Cold War satellites inadvertently tracked species declines. By Stephenie Livingston, Science Magazine. Excerpt: When the Soviet Union launched Sputnik into orbit in 1957, the United States responded with its own spy satellites. The espionage program, known as Corona, sought to locate Soviet missile sites, but its Google Earth–like photography captured something unintended: snapshots of animals and their habitats frozen in time. Now, by comparing these images with modern data, scientists have found a way to track the decline of biodiversity in regions that lack historic records. ...The researchers tested the approach on bobak marmot (Marmota bobak) populations in the grassland region of northern Kazakhstan. There, Soviets converted millions of hectares of natural habitat into cropland in the 1960s. The scientists searched the satellites’ black and white film images on a U.S. Geological Survey database for signs of the squirrellike animal’s burrows. They identified more than 5000 historic marmot homes and compared them with contemporary digital images of the region, mapping more than 12,000 marmot burrows in all. About eight generations of marmots occupied the same burrows in the study area over more than 50 years, even when their habitats underwent major changes, the team reports today in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B. Overall, the researchers estimate the number of marmot burrows dropped by 14% since the ’60s. But the number of burrows in some of the oldest fields—those persistently disturbed by humans plowing grassland to plant wheat—plunged by much more—about 60%. When their burrows were damaged by plowed fields, marmots would often return and rebuild. But the consistent human activity likely weakened marmot families, as the energy animals spent rebuilding took its toll on their health, the team says. The prolonged disturbance may have significantly reduced marmots’ population size in those areas over time, the authors say. ... [https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2020/05/cold-war-satellites-inadvertently-tracked-species-declines]  

2020-04-08. ‘A huge step forward.’ Mutant enzyme could vastly improve recycling of plastic bottles. By Robert F. Service, Science Magazine. Excerpt: Recycling isn’t as guilt-free as it seems. Only about 30% of the plastic that goes into soda bottles gets turned into new plastic, and it often ends up as a lower strength version. Now, researchers report they’ve engineered an enzyme that can convert 90% of that same plastic back to its pristine starting materials. Work is underway to scale up the technology and open a demonstration plant next year.... [https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2020/04/huge-step-forward-mutant-enzyme-could-vastly-improve-recycling-plastic-bottles#]. 

2020-03-23. Bats, insects, coyotes, other wildlife make cities their homes. Urban communities are encouraging this. By Alex Brown, The Washington Post. Excerpt: The nation’s capital is turning drainage ditches into meandering waterways buffered by vegetation, making them more hospitable to birds, fish and reptiles. Instead of mowing the grass, it’s turning open green spaces into meadows filled with plants for pollinators. And it’s encouraging residents to plant milkweed, which has been a boon to monarch butterflies. The District is an urban paradise for many wild animals, and it’s at the forefront of nationwide efforts to make cities and suburbs better places for wildlife. “Generalist” species such as deer, coyotes and raccoons — that thrive in many different conditions — have found cities especially welcoming. Many have been forced out of their natural habitat by development, and an abundance of food and lack of predators make cities a good home. “Animals are just savvy, and they’re starting to adapt because development is pushing them into cities,” said Travis Gallo, who teaches urban ecology at George Mason University.... [https://www.washingtonpost.com/science/bats-insects-coyotes-other-wildlife-make-cities-their-homes-urban-commuities-are-encouraging-this/2020/03/20/6af40ac0-62e1-11ea-acca-80c22bbee96f_story.html


2019-12-30. In Indonesia, Outlaw Gold Miners Poison Themselves to Survive. By Richard C. PaddockPhotographs by Adam Dean, The New York Times.

2019-12-30. ‘A Slow-Motion Chernobyl’: How Lax Laws Turned a River Into a Disaster. By Steve Fisher and Elisabeth Malkin, The New York Times.

2019-12-29. Our Cherished Rivers Are Under Threat. By Macarena Soler, Monti Aguirre and Juan Pablo Orrego, The New York Times (Opinion). 

2019-10-11. In the Sea, Not All Plastic Lasts Forever. By William J. Broad, The New York Times.

2019-08. One Very Bad Habit Is Fueling the Global Recycling Meltdown. By Jackie Flynn Mogensen, Mother Jones.

2019-08-17. New maps show how little is left of West Coast estuaries. By Peter Fimrite, San Francisco Chronicle.

2019-05-28. Food Delivery Apps Are Drowning China in Plastic. By Raymond Zhong and Carolyn Zhang, The New York Times.

2019-05-20. These tiny microbes are munching away at plastic waste in the ocean. By Helen Santoro, Science Magazine. 

2019-04-30. Your Questions About Food and Climate Change, Answered—How to shop, cook and eat in a warming world. By Julia Moskin, Brad Plumer, Rebecca Lieberman and Eden Weingart, The New York Times.

2019-03-29. Why Do Garfield Phones Keep Washing Up on This Beach? By Palko Karasz, The New York Times.

2019-03-18. Dead Whale Found With 88 Pounds of Plastic Inside Body in the Philippines. By Daniel Victor, The New York Times.

2019-03-16. As Costs Skyrocket, More U.S. Cities Stop Recycling. By Michael Corkery, The New York Times.

2019-01-24. VIDEO: Inventor Inspired By Childhood Memories Of Fungus. By NPR, from the Joe's Big Idea series Changing The World, One Invention At A Time.

2018. Biodegradable plastic: The unintended consequences. United Nations Environment Programme.

2018-11-30. Why are these Costa Rican monkeys turning yellow? By Helen Santoro, Science Magazine.

2018-11-20. Dead sperm whale found in Indonesia had ingested '6kg of plastic'. By BBC News. 

2018-09-27. Long-banned toxin may wipe out many killer whales. By Elizabeth Pennisi, Science Magazine. 

2018-09-24. Common weed killer—believed harmless to animals—may be harming bees worldwide. By Warren Cornwall, Science Magazine. 

2018-09-09. Giant Trap Is Deployed to Catch Plastic Littering the Pacific Ocean. By Christina Caron, The New York Times.

2018-08-06. Designing the Death of a Plastic. By Xiaozhi Lim, The New York Times. 

2018-06-27. Tropical forests suffered near-record tree losses in 2017. By Brad Plumer, San Francisco Chronicle. 

2018-06-04. Whale’s Death in Thailand Points to Global Scourge: Plastic in Oceans. By Mike Ives, The New York Times. 

2018-03-22. Great Pacific Garbage Patch is now nearly 4 times the size of California. By Peter Fimrite, San Francisco Chronicle. 

2017-12-04. London Mayor Seeks Revival of Public Drinking Fountains. By Alan Cowell, The New York Times. 

2017-11-25. China Limits Waste. ‘Cardboard Grannies’ and Texas Recyclers Scramble. By Mike Ives, The New York Times. 

2017-11-16. A Population of Billions May Have Contributed to This Bird’s Extinction. By Steph Yin, The New York Times. 

2017-10-21. Why Has the E.P.A. Shifted on Toxic Chemicals? An Industry Insider Helps Call the Shots. By Eric Lipton, The New York Times. 

2017-10-20. Vikings Razed the Forests. Can Iceland Regrow Them? By Henry Fountain, The New York Times. 

2017-08-17. UC Berkeley Sutardja Center launches new lab to take on $1 trillion meat industry. By Keith McAleer, UC Berkeley Sutardja Center for Entrepreneurship & Technology. 

2017-07-19. The Immense, Eternal Footprint Humanity Leaves on Earth: Plastics. By Tatiana Schlossberg, The New York Times. For GSS Ecosystem Change chapter 7. 

2017-05-24. Fig Leaves Are Out. What to Wear to Be Kind to the Planet?  By Tatiana Schossberg, The New York Times. 

2017-04-30. ‘Living river’ rejuvenates Napa, brings needed flood control. By John King, San Francisco Chronicle. 

2017-04-14. Eating ecosystems. By Justin S. Brashares, Kaitlyn M. Gaynor, Science.

2016-11-14. Vast and Pristine, Russia’s Lake Baikal Is Invaded by Toxic Algae. By Rachel Nuwer, The New York Times.

2016-07-13. Global Risks and Research Priorities for Coastal Subsidence. By Mead Allison, et al, EoS, AGU.

2016-03-25. San Francisco, ‘the Silicon Valley of Recycling’. By Matt Richter, The New York Times.

2016-02-02. Glyphosate Now the Most-Used Agricultural Chemical Ever. By Douglas Main, Newsweek.

2015-11-25. Huge development projects could doom Africa’s environment. By Virginia Morell, Science.

2010-08-31. Up to 90% of seabirds have plastic in their guts, study finds. By Associated Press, The Guardian.

2015-05-01. Cleveland Indians Have Home-Field Advantage on Recycling. By Diane Cardwell, The New York Times.

2015-05-01. Hacking Our Diet. onEarth magazine of NRDC.

2014-07-24. Satellite Study Reveals Parched U.S. West Using Up Underground Water. Excerpt: A new study by NASA and University of California, Irvine, scientists finds more than 75 percent of the water loss in the drought-stricken Colorado River Basin since late 2004 came from underground resources. The extent of groundwater loss may pose a greater threat to the water supply of the western United States than previously thought. ...the basin has been suffering from prolonged, severe drought since 2000 and has experienced the driest 14-year period in the last hundred years. The research team used data from NASA's Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) satellite mission [ http://www.nasa.gov/grace and http://www.csr.utexas.edu/grace] to track changes in the mass of the Colorado River Basin, which are related to changes in water amount on and below the surface. ...the basin lost nearly 53 million acre feet (65 cubic kilometers) of freshwater, ...about 41 million acre feet (50 cubic kilometers) -- was from groundwater. ..."We don't know exactly how much groundwater we have left, so we don't know when we're going to run out," said Stephanie Castle, a water resources specialist at the University of California, Irvine, and the study's lead author. "This is a lot of water to lose. We thought that the picture could be pretty bad, but this was shocking."... http://www.nasa.gov/press/2014/july/satellite-study-reveals-parched-us-west-using-up-underground-water/.  NASA RELEASE 14-200.

2014-06-05. Putting a Price Tag on Nature’s Defenses. Excerpt: ...Coastal marshes absorb the wind energy and waves of storms, weakening their impact farther inland. ...the services ecosystems provide us — whether shielding us from storms, preventing soil erosion or soaking up the greenhouse gases that lead to global warming — were [$33 trillion] twice as valuable as the gross national product of every country on Earth in 1997. ...Dr. Costanza and his colleagues have now updated the 1997 estimate in a new study, published in the May issue of the journal Global Environmental Change, and concluded that the original estimate was far too low. The true value of the services of the world’s ecosystems is at least three times as high.... Coral reefs...protect against soil erosion by weakening waves before they reach land. ...Dr. Costanza and his colleagues now consider the services provided by coral reefs to be 42 times more valuable than they did in 1997...a total of $11 trillion worldwide. Most of the 17 services that Dr. Costanza and his colleagues analyzed...— including tropical forests, mangroves and grasslands — also turned out to be more valuable. ...they came up with a global figure of $142.7 trillion a year (in 2014 dollars). ...the world’s reefs shrank from 240,000 square miles in 1997 to 108,000 in 2011. ...deforestation and other damage we’ve inflicted on the natural world has wiped out $23 trillion a year in ecosystem services. To put that loss into perspective, consider that the gross domestic product of the United States is $16.2 trillion....  By Carl Zimmer, The New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/05/science/earth/putting-a-price-tag-on-natures-defenses.html.

2014-04-09. The Redeemers. Excerpt: ...Every year, electronics consumers around the world generate at least 20 million tons of “e-waste.” ...The salvageable commodities to be found in our e-waste, mainly precious metals like gold and copper, share space with a number of hazardous and difficult-to-extract materials such as lead, cadmium, and mercury. ...Kabira Stokes, Isidore’s founder and CEO, looks at all of this high-tech trash and sees in it a veritable gold mine (or copper mine, depending). Through a process known as de-manufacturing, her employees collect and sort unwanted electronics donated by individuals or companies. Salvageable metals, plastics, and wire are bundled and sold to certified processors en route to being recycled into new goods.... But at Isidore, the philosophy of redemption doesn’t stop with motherboards and monitors. The men working the floor are themselves part of a reclamation project: each of them came to work at Isidore after serving hard time in California’s correctional system. As ex-prisoners, they are generally considered among the least employable individuals in society. But if the word “recycling” means anything to Stokes, it means believing in second chances and salvation. From a purely business standpoint, it also means capitalizing on the considerable energies and talents of an overlooked, undervalued segment of the labor force. As Stokes puts it: “It doesn’t make sense that just because someone messes up and serves time, we never actually forgive them. It’s not working. And it’s a waste of value.”.... http://www.onearth.org/articles/2014/04/electronics-need-second-chances-at-life-and-so-do-people.  By Lynell George, OnEarth magazine (NRDC).

2013-12-17. How Beyoncé Is Saving the Planet With Her New Album.  Excerpt: Purchasing "Beyoncé" online instead of as a CD could cut greenhouse gas emissions by up to 80 percent. ...the singer and Columbia Records dropped her entire self-titled fifth album exclusively for digital download on iTunes. Of course, it's not the first digital launch, but it's one of the most successful ... moving more than 800,000 electronic copies in just three days to become the US iTunes Store's fastest-selling album ever; ...2009 study found the average compact disc sold in the UK produces around 2.2 pounds of greenhouse gases across its lifecycle: recording, manufacturing, packaging, distribution, transport, and promotion. Packaging accounted for more than a third of these emissions. ...And let's not forget Beyoncé's complete lack of pre-promotion for the album. ...A United Kingdom report from data collected in 2009 for the British Recorded Music Industry and the Association of Independent Music (UK) shows the current emissions from promo CDs from the indie music sector alone is around 1,700 metric tons—equivalent to more than three times the annual energy, water, and waste emissions from a single music arena. By completely switching to digital delivery of these releases, the independent music sector could save 1,525 metric tons of CO2 annually. That's a reduction of 86 percent.... http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2013/12/beyonce-secret-album-helping-planet-climate. James West, Mother Jones.

2013-09-15.  How to replace foam and plastic packaging with mushroom experiments. Excerpt: ..."We're taking local farm waste and mixing it with tissues from mushrooms and growing replacements for plastic foams that are used in protective packaging," explains Gavin McIntyre, co-founder and one of the chief scientists at Ecovative Design, a "revolutionary new biomaterials company" in Green Island.... More traditional Styrofoam packaging is made of polystyrene, an unsustainable petrochemical, and can take up to a million years to biodegrade naturally. One of Ecovative's goals is to develop packaging materials that not only decompose faster and more naturally, but also give back to the ecosystem. They do this by utilizing mycelium, the microscopic root structure that allows mushrooms to grow on trees and spread throughout the forest floor.... Local agricultural waste, such as corn stalks and husks, is cleaned and then mixed with mycelium. The mixture is incubated for about two days before being ground up and packed into molds. After allowing the mycelium to grow and fill out for about three more days, the molds are baked in a low-temperature oven to prevent further growth. They are then removed from the molds and trimmed to fit as packaging pieces for electronics, car parts, and more.... They're currently developing insulation for houses, using the same mushroom root growth structure to create a layer between the interior walls and exterior siding. The mycelium growth between the walls provides insulation, structure, and even an extra layer of protection for homes." The mycelium itself acts as a sort of fire retardant," .... http://america.aljazeera.com/watch/shows/techknow/blog/2013/9/15/how-to-replace-foamandplasticpackagingwithmushroomexperiments.html, Meredith Kile, AlJazeera America. 

2013-06-19.  China puts up a green wall to US trash. Excerpt: Have you ever wondered what happens to the soda can that you toss into a recycling bin? Chances are high that it ends up in China – like 75 percent of the aluminum scrap that the United States exports. Or 60 percent of its scrap paper exports. Or 50 percent of its plastic. But a new Chinese edict, banning "foreign rubbish," has thrown the international scrap and waste trade into turmoil and is posing a major new challenge for US recyclers. ...Chinese recyclers "have got used to expecting 20 percent trash" in the bales of mixed plastics they buy from the US, .... That trash has to be sorted from the recyclables, then buried or burned, further degrading China's environment. ...The international trade has boomed partly because the US cannot dispose of all the waste it generates; .... "If the US border were closed, most of the scrap that is exported today would go to landfill," says Robin Wiener, president of ISRI. "We don't have the capacity to absorb it all." ..."We used to send garbage because it was the cheapest thing to do and because the Chinese would accept it," Mr. Powell explains. The new Chinese policy, he says, will force US recyclers either to sort recyclables more carefully, or to recycle more material in the US, or both.....  http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Asia-Pacific/2013/0619/China-puts-up-a-green-wall-to-US-trash. Peter Ford, Christian Science Monitor.

2013-06-18.  Why Bottled Water Is Insane.   Excerpt: ...while that bottle of [water] goes for $1.79, the same amount from your tap ... might go for $.00063 for the same 20 oz.... to illustrate the general insanity of bottled water ... in Colorado...marketing equals an unceasing stream of semi-trucks driving between a series of wells and a bottling plant in Denver, about three hours away. One truck pulls up, fills, and drives on, to be immediately replaced by another empty truck, and so on. In the process, they are draining an aquifer that feeds the Arkansas River. [the bottled water company] has purchased the rights to this water from the municipality of Aurora, Colorado, a suburb of Denver. Water that [the company] takes from the Arkansas is replaced by [the company's] water supply, and then pumped into the river not far upstream from [the company's] wells. So [the company] takes water from the Arkansas, trucks it, bottles it, and then trucks it again to stores. Meanwhile, it's returning the same amount of water in less marketable form to the river.... http://motherboard.vice.com/blog/why-bottled-water-is-insane. Michael Byrne, Motherboard.

2013-05-23. Scraps and the City. Excerpt: ...Food and other organic material (by which I mean yard waste and prunings) make up a whopping 25 percent of New York’s residential waste stream: that’s a huge amount to potentially divert from landfills and incinerators. Compost it instead and we’d be saving the city money (New York spends more than $330 million a year hauling waste to landfills) and avoiding the generation of the greenhouse gas methane, which is produced when organic material rots in the airless confines of a dump. Not too many people consider the biochemical fallout of their banana peels, but solid-waste managers across the nation are beginning to see organics collection as the next frontier, after recycling, in reducing their waste streams. Today, more than 160 American communities, serving more than 1.2 million households, have programs for separating organics from the trash -- an increase of more than 50 percent since 2009. ...Last month, Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced a pilot program for collecting organic material from the curbsides of several Staten Island neighborhoods, a couple of homeless-services agencies in Brooklyn, three high-rises in Manhattan, and 72 schools in two boroughs. Should the two-year pilot succeed -- with high participation rates and the diversion of significant tonnages -- the program will roll out across the city.  ... may take some time for cranky, impatient New Yorkers to get used to the idea of segregating their food scraps, but ...If you make it convenient for people, and teach them that this is an important issue, they will eventually change their behavior.  ...Twenty years from now, ...people will shake their heads and say, ‘You were spending $100 million a year exporting food waste to landfills and allowing it to emit methane into the atmosphere? What were you thinking?’” ....  http://www.onearth.org/blog/scraps-and-the-city. Elizabeth Royte, On Earth Magazine NRDC.

2013-04-30.  A City That Turns Garbage Into Energy Copes With a Shortage. Excerpt: OSLO — This is a city that imports garbage. Some comes from England, some from Ireland. Some is from neighboring Sweden. It even has designs on the American market. ...Oslo, a recycling-friendly place where roughly half the city and most of its schools are heated by burning garbage — household trash, industrial waste, even toxic and dangerous waste from hospitals and drug arrests — has a problem: it has literally run out of garbage to burn.... http://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/30/world/europe/oslo-copes-with-shortage-of-garbage-it-turns-into-energy.html. John Tagliabue, New York Times. 

2012 Sept 03. Elephants Dying in Epic Frenzy as Ivory Fuels Wars and Profits. By Jeffrey Gettleman, The NY Times. Excerpt: Africa is in the midst of an epic elephant slaughter. Conservation groups say poachers are wiping out tens of thousands of elephants a year, more than at any time in the previous two decades, with the underground ivory trade becoming increasingly militarized…ivory, it seems, is the latest conflict resource in Africa, dragged out of remote battle zones, easily converted into cash and now fueling conflicts across the continent. Some of Africa’s most notorious armed groups, including the Lord’s Resistance Army, the Shabab and Darfur’s janjaweed, are hunting down elephants and using the tusks to buy weapons and sustain their mayhem. Organized crime syndicates are linking up with them to move the ivory around the world, exploiting turbulent states, porous borders and corrupt officials from sub-Saharan Africa to China, law enforcement officials say….

2012 Mar 24. Companies Pick Up Used Packaging, and Recycling’s Cost, an article by Allen Brisson-Smith for The New York Times. Excerpt: … a new trend in recycling, courtesy of the manufacturers who make the original products … assuming the costs of recycling their packaging after consumers are finished with it, a responsibility long imposed on packaged goods companies in Europe and more recently in parts of Asia, Latin America and Canada. …Coca-Cola has a whole subsidiary, Coca-Cola Recycling L.L.C., devoted to its stated goal of ensuring the recycling of 100 percent of its cans and bottles in North America by 2015 and 50 percent in the rest of the world. To that end, seven factories owned wholly or in part by the company toil away around the globe recycling plastic, including one in Spartanburg, S.C. …Coke is also experimenting with nonpetroleum-based packaging materials … PlantBottles made of polyethylene terephthalate, or PET, which are up to 30 percent plant-based and can go through the same process that regular, 100 percent oil-based PET bottles go through. Stonyfield Farm, the Vermont yogurt maker, …told its customers that they could mail in their used cups for recycling. About 200 customers responded. … in 2008, the company struck a deal to put collection bins in Whole Foods stores, and the effort took off. Customers can take any No. 5 container to Whole Foods stores — margarine tubs, other brands’ yogurt containers — where they are collected, taken to a plant for processing, and then turned into toothbrushes and razors by Preserve. Last year, some 11 million six-ounce No. 5 yogurt cups were collected through the program, up from 2.3 million in 2009, according to Stonyfield.

2012 Jan 24. Mercury’s Harmful Reach Has Grown, Study Suggests.  By Tony Cenicola/The New York Times. Excerpt: The strict new federal standards limiting pollution from power plants are meant to safeguard human health. But they should have an important side benefit, according to a study being released on Tuesday: protecting a broad array of wildlife that has been harmed by mercury emissions. …Songbirds and bats suffer some of the same types of neurological disorders from mercury as humans and especially children do, says the study, “Hidden Risk,” by the Biodiversity Research Institute, a nonprofit organization in Gorham, Me., that investigates emerging environmental threats. Methylmercury, the most toxic form of the heavy metal, was found to be widespread throughout the Northeast…. The new study found dangerously high levels of mercury in several Northeastern bird species, including rusty blackbirds, saltmarsh sparrows and wood thrushes. Previous studies have shown mercury’s effects on loons and other fish-eating waterfowl, as well as bald eagles, panthers and otters. ... “We’re seeing many other species in a much larger landscape of harm from mercury,” said the principal author, David C. Evers, who is the institute’s executive director. He called the Environmental Protection Agency’s new mercury standards, adopted last month and scheduled to take effect over the next four years, “an excellent step forward in reducing and minimizing the impact on ecosystems and improving ecological health, and therefore our own health.” …Songbirds with blood mercury levels of just 0.7 parts per million generally showed a 10 percent reduction in the rate at which eggs successfully hatched. As mercury increases, reproduction decreases. At mercury levels of greater than 1.7 parts per million, the ability of eggs to hatch is reduced by more than 30 percent, according to the study. … “What people don’t realize is that our rain isn’t just acidic,” said Timothy H. Tear, director of science for the Nature Conservancy in New York. “It is neurotoxic.”…. See also: Sounding an Alarm on Birds and Mercury, By Anthony Depalma

2011 Dec 30. Organic Agriculture May Be Outgrowing Its Ideals. By Elisabeth Rosenthal. Excerpt:  ... at this time of year, the tomatoes, peppers and basil certified as organic by the Agriculture Department often hail from the Mexican desert, and are nurtured with intensive irrigation. Growers here on the Baja Peninsula, the epicenter of Mexico’s thriving new organic export sector, describe their toil amid the cactuses as “planting the beach.” Del Cabo Cooperative, a supplier here for Trader Joe’s and Fairway, is sending more than seven and a half tons of tomatoes and basil every day to the United States by truck and plane to sate the American demand for organic produce year-round. But even as more Americans buy foods with the organic label, the products are increasingly removed from the traditional organic ideal: produce that is not only free of chemicals and pesticides but also grown locally on small farms in a way that protects the environment. The explosive growth in the commercial cultivation of organic tomatoes here, for example, is putting stress on the water table.  …To carry the Agriculture Department’s organic label on their produce, farms in the United States and abroad must comply with a long list of standards that prohibit the use of synthetic fertilizers, hormones and pesticides, for example. But the checklist makes few specific demands for what would broadly be called environmental sustainability, even though the 1990 law that created the standards was intended to promote ecological balance and biodiversity as well as soil and water health. Experts agree that in general organic farms tend to be less damaging to the environment than conventional farms. In the past, however, “organic agriculture used to be sustainable agriculture, but now that is not always the case,” said Michael Bomford, a scientist at Kentucky State University who specializes in sustainable agriculture.... See video.

2011 August 8. An Economist for Nature Calculates the Need for More Protection. By John Moir, The New York Times. Excerpt: Dawn is breaking over this remote upland region, where neat rows of coffee plants cover many of the hillsides. The rising tropical sun saturates the landscape with color, revealing islandlike remnants of native forest scattered among the coffee plantations. But across this bucolic countryside, trouble is brewing. An invasive African insect known as the coffee berry borer is threatening the area’s crops. Local farmers call the pest “la broca”: the borer.
…Since 1991, Dr. Daily, 46, has made frequent trips to this Costa Rican site to conduct one of the tropics’ most comprehensive population-level studies to monitor long-term ecological change.
“We are working to very specifically quantify in biophysical and dollar terms the value of conserving the forest and its wildlife,” she said.
In recent years, Dr. Daily has expanded her research to include a global focus. She is one of the pioneers in the growing worldwide effort to protect the environment by quantifying the value of “natural capital” — nature’s goods and services that are fundamental for human life — and factoring these benefits into the calculations of businesses and governments. Dr. Daily’s work has attracted international attention and has earned her some of the world’s most coveted environmental awards….

2010 September 27. Water Use in Southwest Heads for a Day of Reckoning. By Felicity Barringer, New York Times. Excerpt: A once-unthinkable day is looming on the Colorado River… Water distribution may be reordered as early as next year because the flow of water cannot keep pace with the region's demands. 
For the first time, federal estimates issued in August indicate that Lake Mead, the heart of the lower Colorado basin’s water system — irrigating lettuce, onions and wheat in reclaimed corners of the Sonoran Desert, and lawns and golf courses from Las Vegas to Los Angeles — could drop below a crucial demarcation line of 1,075 feet. 
…This could mean more dry lawns, shorter showers and fallow fields in those states, although conservation efforts might help them adjust to the cutbacks. California, which has first call on the Colorado River flows in the lower basin, would not be affected. 
…the operating plan also lays out a proposal to prevent Lake Mead from dropping below the trigger point. It allows water managers to send 40 percent more water than usual downstream to Lake Mead from Lake Powell in Utah, the river’s other big reservoir, which now contains about 50 percent more water than Lake Mead. 
…Adding to water managers’ unease, scientists predict that prolonged droughts will be more frequent in decades to come as the Southwest’s climate warms. As Lake Mead’s level drops, Hoover Dam’s capacity to generate electricity, which, like the Colorado River water, is sent around the Southwest, diminishes with it. If Lake Mead levels fall to 1,050 feet, it may be impossible to use the dam’s turbines, and the flow of electricity could cease.

2010 October 5. Japan Recycles Minerals From Used Electronics. By Hiroko Tabuchi, New York Times. Excerpt: ...Recent problems with Chinese supplies of rare earths have sent Japanese traders and companies in search of alternative sources, creating opportunities for Kosaka.
This town’s hopes for a mining comeback lie not underground, but in what Japan refers to as urban mining — recycling the valuable metals and minerals from the country’s huge stockpiles of used electronics like cellphones and computers. 
…Two weeks ago, amid a diplomatic spat with Tokyo, China started to block exports of all rare earths to Japan. 
…In Kosaka, Dowa Holdings, the company that mined here for over a century, has built a recycling plant whose 200-foot-tall furnace renders old electronics parts into a molten stew from which valuable metals and other minerals can be extracted. The salvaged parts come from around Japan and overseas, including the United States... Besides gold, Dowa’s subsidiary, Kosaka Smelting and Refining, has so far successfully reclaimed rare metals like indium, used in liquid-crystal display screens, and antimony, used in silicon wafers for semiconductors. 
Although Japan is poor in natural resources, the National Institute for Materials Science, a government-affiliated research group, says that used electronics in Japan hold an estimated 300,000 tons of rare earths. Though that amount is tiny compared to reserves in China, which mines 93 percent of the world’s rare earth minerals, tapping these urban mines could help reduce Japan’s dependence on its neighbor, analysts say. 
…Japan is also pushing for new manufacturing processes that do not require rare earths. 
…But this form of recycling is an expensive and technically difficult process that is still being perfected.
At Dowa’s plant, computer chips and other vital parts from electronics are hacked into two-centimeter squares. This feedstock then must be smelted in a furnace that reaches 1,400 degrees Celsius before various minerals can be extracted. The factory processes 300 tons of materials a day, and each ton yields only about 150 grams of rare metals.

2010 September 18. Cleaner for the Environment, Not for the Dishes. By Mireya Navarro, The New York Times.Excerpt: …Responding to laws that went into effect in 17 states in July, the nation’s detergent makers reformulated their products to reduce what had been the crucial ingredient, phosphates, to just a trace. 
While phosphates help prevent dishes from spotting in the wash cycle, they have long ended up in lakes and reservoirs, stimulating algae growth that deprives other plants and fish of oxygen.
Yet now, with the content reduced, many consumers are finding the new formulas as appealing as low-flow showers, underscoring the tradeoffs that people often face today in a more environmentally conscious marketplace. 
…The new products can run up against longtime habits and even cultural concepts of cleanliness. 
…Jessica Fischburg, a commerce manager in Norwich, Conn., for CleaningProductsWorld.com, which sells janitorial supplies in bulk, said she was not surprised that many of her clients rejected products marketed as environmentally friendly. “The reality of any green product is that they generally don’t work as well,” she said. “Our customers really don’t like them.” 
…But some users attest to quantifiable benefits. Reports of burns, rashes, dizziness and scratchy throats among housekeeping employees have plummeted at North Central Bronx Hospital and Jacobi Medical Center since the staff switched to new cleaning products in 2004… 
…Phosphorus pollution comes from multiple sources, including fertilizer and manure that enter the water through runoff. Dishwasher detergents contribute just a fraction, but environmental campaigners say any reduction can result in a tangible improvements. (Laundry detergents and hand soaps are already free of phosphates.)

2010 July 26. NSF Press Release 10-126: Latest Green Packing Material? Mushrooms! Excerpt: ...The composite of inedible agricultural waste and mushroom roots is called Mycobond™, and its manufacture requires just one eighth the energy and one tenth the carbon dioxide of traditional foam packing material.
…With support from NSF, [Gavin] McIntyre and [Eben] Bayer are developing a new, less energy-intensive method to sterilize their agricultural-waste starter material--a necessary step for enabling the mushroom fibers, called mycelia, to grow. McIntyre and Bayer are replacing a steam-heat process with a treatment made from cinnamon-bark oil, thyme oil, oregano oil and lemongrass oil.
…Much of the manufacturing process is nearly energy-free, with the mycelia growing around and digesting agricultural starter material--such as cotton seed or wood fiber--in an environment that is both room-temperature and dark. Because the growth occurs within a molded plastic structure (which the producers customize for each application), no energy is required for shaping the products.
…Bayer and McIntyre are hoping the entire process can be packaged as a kit, allowing shipping facilities, and even homeowners, to grow their own Mycobond™ materials.
…Based on a preliminary assessment McIntyre and Bayer conducted under their Phase I NSF SBIR award, the improvements to the sterilization phase will reduce the energy of the entire manufacturing process to one fortieth of that required to create polymer foam.
…In addition to the packaging product, called EcoCradle™, Ecovative has developed a home insulation product dubbed greensulate™. Comparable in effectiveness to foam insulation, it is also highly flame retardant.

2010 July 23. E.P.A. Considers Risks of Gas Extraction. By Tom Zeller Jr., The New York Times. Excerpt: CANONSBURG, Pa. … Streams of people came to the public meeting here armed with stories of yellowed and foul-smelling well water, deformed livestock, poisoned fish and itchy skin… The culprit, these people argued, was hydraulic fracturing, a method of extracting natural gas that involves blasting underground rock with a cocktail of water, sand and chemicals…
…Gas companies countered that the horror stories described in Pennsylvania and at other meetings held recently in Texas and Colorado are either fictions or not the companies’ fault. More regulation, the industry warned, would kill jobs and stifle production of gas, which the companies consider a clean-burning fuel the nation desperately needs.
…The Environmental Protection Agency has been on a listening tour, soliciting advice from all sides on how to shape a forthcoming $1.9 million study of hydraulic fracturing’s effect on groundwater.
…Roughly 99.5 percent of the fluids typically used in fracking, the industry says, are just water and sand, with trace amounts of chemical thickeners, lubricants and other compounds added to help the process along. The cocktail is injected thousands of feet below the water table and, the industry argues, can’t possibly be responsible for growing complaints of spoiled streams and wells. But critics say that the relationship between fracking fluids and groundwater contamination has never been thoroughly studied — and that proving a link has been made more difficult by oil and gas companies that have jealously guarded as trade secrets the exact chemical ingredients used at each well.

2010 July 14. NASA Release: 10-166: NASA Supporting Gulf Oil Spill Wildlife Recovery. Excerpt: NASA’s Kennedy Space Center is helping with the unprecedented effort to save wildlife from the effects of the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. 
The first group of hatchlings from endangered sea turtle eggs brought from beaches along the northern U.S. Gulf Coast was released into the Atlantic Ocean off Kennedy’s central Florida coast on July 11. Twenty-two Kemp’s ridley turtles were set free on a Kennedy Space Center beach, which is part of the Canaveral National Seashore. 
After being collected on June 26, the Kemp’s ridley nest from Walton County, Fla., was packed in a Styrofoam box with sand and transported by a specially-equipped FexEx truck to a secure, climate-controlled facility at Kennedy where it was monitored until incubation was complete. Most of the nests that will be collected are from loggerhead turtles, but nests from leatherback and green turtles, in addition to Kemp’s ridley, may be brought to the Kennedy hatchery. 
...The release and relocation work is part of an environmental endeavor by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, the National Park Service, NOAA, FedEx and conservationists to help minimize the risk to this year’s sea turtle hatchlings from impacts of the oil spill. During the next several months, this plan involves carefully moving an anticipated 700 nests to Kennedy that have been laid on Florida Panhandle and Alabama beaches. 
The Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1963 as an overlay of Kennedy Space Center, where it shares the land with spac shuttle launch pads, rockets and research and development facilities. As part of the Deepwater Horizon Response, six brown pelicans, four laughing gulls and one common tern also were released at Kennedy on June 6.

2010 May 20. Agency Orders Use of a Less Toxic Chemical in Gulf. By Campbell Robertson and Elisabeth Rosenthal, The NY Times. Excerpt: …According to NOAA’s estimates, Mr. Jindal said, the spill has already affected nearly 50 miles of Louisiana’s coastline, which is full of breaks and inlets into fragile marshlands that are far more difficult to protect than sandy beaches. “No shoreline has been fully cleaned,” he said.
…In directing BP to select a less toxic dispersant, the Environmental Protection Agency said it was exercising caution because so little is known about the chemicals’ potential impact. …BP has sprayed nearly 700,000 gallons of Corexit dispersants on the surface of the gulf and directly onto the leaking well head a mile underwater. It is by far the largest use of chemicals to break up an oil spill in United States waters to date.

2009 Nov. Rubbish in the Pacific. NY Times slide show. In a remote patch of the Pacific Ocean, hundreds of miles from any national boundary, the detritus of human life is collecting in a swirling current so large that it defies precise measurement....

2009 Nov 9. Afloat in the Ocean, Expanding Islands of Trash. By Lindsey Hoshaw, NY Times. Excerpt: ...Light bulbs, bottle caps, toothbrushes, Popsicle sticks and tiny pieces of plastic, each the size of a grain of rice, inhabit the Pacific garbage patch, an area of widely dispersed trash that doubles in size every decade and is now believed to be roughly twice the size of Texas. But one research organization estimates that the garbage now actually pervades the Pacific, though most of it is caught in what oceanographers call a gyre like this one — an area of heavy currents and slack winds that keep the trash swirling in a giant whirlpool.
Scientists say the garbage patch is just one of five that may be caught in giant gyres scattered around the world’s oceans. Abandoned fishing gear like buoys, fishing line and nets account for some of the waste, but other items come from land after washing into storm drains and out to sea.
Plastic is the most common refuse in the patch because it is lightweight, durable and an omnipresent, disposable product in both advanced and developing societies. It can float along for hundreds of miles before being caught in a gyre and then, over time, breaking down.
But once it does split into pieces, the fragments look like confetti in the water. Millions, billions, trillions and more of these particles are floating in the world's trash-filled gyres....

2009 October 19. Nudging Recycling From Less Waste to None. By Leslie Kaufman, The NY Times. Excerpt: At Yellowstone National Park, the clear soda cups and white utensils are not your typical cafe-counter garbage. Made of plant-based plastics, they dissolve magically when heated for more than a few minutes.... Across the nation, an antigarbage strategy known as "zero waste" is moving from the fringes to the mainstream, taking hold in school cafeterias, national parks, restaurants, stadiums and corporations.
The movement is simple in concept if not always in execution: Produce less waste. Shun polystyrene foam containers or any other packaging that is not biodegradable. Recycle or compost whatever you can....

2009 July. Male Frogs Losing Their Macho. By Kathleen M. Wong, ScienceMatters@Berkeley. The herbicide atrazine, used on millions of acres of corn and other crops each year, turns male frogs into hermaphrodites and can affect human health as well. This alarming discovery by Berkeley professor Tyrone Hayes is leading to a major analysis of America's waterways....

2009 June 29. A Green Way to Dump Low-Tech Electronics. By Leslie Kaufman, The NY Times. Excerpt: ...Since 2004, 18 states and New York City have approved laws that make manufacturers responsible for recycling electronics, and similar statutes were introduced in 13 other states this year. The laws are intended to prevent a torrent of toxic and outdated electronic equipment — television sets, computers, monitors, printers, fax machines — from ending up in landfills where they can leach chemicals into groundwater and potentially pose a danger to public health.
The Environmental Protection Agency estimates 99.1 million televisions sit unused in closets and basements across the country. Consumer response to recycling has been enormous in states where the laws have taken effect. Collection points in Washington State, for example, have been swamped by people....
Since January, Washington State residents and small businesses have been allowed to drop off their televisions, computers and computer monitors free of charge to one of 200 collection points around the state. They have responded by dumping more than 15 million pounds of electronic waste, according to state collection data. If disposal continues at this rate, it will amount to more than five pounds for every man, woman and child per year.
“If you make it easy, they will recycle their stuff,” said Barbara Kyle, national coordinator of the Electronics TakeBack Coalition, a nonprofit group based in San Francisco. If products are recycled rather than dumped, parts of the machines are refurbished for new use where possible; if not, they are disassembled, their glass and precious metals are recycled, and the plastics, which have no reuse market, are often shipped overseas to developing countries for disposal....

2009 June 19. Destroying Levees in a State Usually Clamoring for Them. By Cornelia Dean, The NY Times. Excerpt: In the 1960s, a group of businessmen bought 16,000 acres of swampy bottomland along the Ouachita River in northern Louisiana and built miles of levee around it. They bulldozed its oak and cypress trees and, when the land dried out, turned it into a soybean farm.
Now two brothers who grew up nearby are undoing all that work. In what experts are calling the biggest levee-busting operation ever in North America, the brothers plan to return the muddy river to its ancient floodplain, coaxing back plants and animals that flourished there when President Thomas Jefferson first had the land surveyed in 1804.
“I really did not know if I would ever see it,” said Kelby Ouchley, who retired last year as manager of the Upper Ouachita National Wildlife Refuge, which owns the land. He pursues the project as a volunteer consultant in coordination with his brother Keith, who heads Louisiana operations for the Nature Conservancy, which helped organize and finance the levee-busting effort.
...Louisiana’s levees have exacted a huge environmental cost. Inland, cypress forests and wetlands crucial for migrating waterfowl have vanished; in southern Louisiana, coastal marshes deprived of regular infusions of sediment-rich river water have yielded by the mile to an encroaching Gulf of Mexico. Some scientists have suggested opening levees south of New Orleans so the Mississippi River can flow normally into the swamps.
...The workers replanted cypress and tupelo in low areas, then oaks and green ash, and then sweetgum and pecans — “life-sustaining, system-supporting diversity,” as Kelby Ouchley called it in an essay.
Eventually, he predicted, the restored landscape would be home to black bear cubs, largemouth bass, fireflies, crawfish and “gobbling wild turkeys and cottonmouths with attitudes.”...

2008 July 23. No plastic bags in LA stores beginning July 2010. LOS ANGELES (AP) - Excerpt: Los Angeles shoppers soon won't hear the question, "Paper or plastic?" at the checkout line. The City Council voted Tuesday to ban plastic shopping bags from stores, beginning July 1, 2010. Shoppers can either bring their own bags or pay 25 cents for a paper bag. The council's unanimous vote also puts pressure on the state, which is considering an Assembly bill that would ban plastic bags in 2012 and charge at least 15 cents per paper bag. "We've gotten to a point where we need to act as a city, where we can have real results," said Councilman Ed Reyes, who proposed the bag ban.... Last year, San Francisco passed the nation's first bag ban, which took effect in November.

2008 May 7. A City Committed to Recycling Is Ready for More By FELICITY BARRINGER The mayor of San Francisco wants to make the recycling of cans, bottles, paper, yard waste and food scraps mandatory instead of voluntary, on the pain of having garbage pickups suspended.

2008 Apr 22. Mercury Migrating Out of Rivers to the Shore. By HENRY FOUNTAIN, NY Times. Excerpt: Mercury contamination can be a big problem in rivers, as it moves up the food chain accumulating in top predators. ...In the South River in Virginia, ... the mercury has moved from the river to the shore, according to a study by Daniel A. Cristol and colleagues at the College of William and Mary. They report in Science.... The South, a Shenandoah tributary, was heavily contaminated with mercury sulfate from a DuPont factory from 1930 to 1950. Fish and aquatic birds on the river have long been known to be contaminated. But most of the 13 terrestrial birds tested had levels similar to or higher than the aquatic birds.
Researchers say the main culprit is spiders, which in some cases make up 30 percent of birds' diets and have high levels of mercury. The spiders obtain mercury from their prey, either aquatic insects that are contaminated or terrestrial insects that develop in areas contaminated by flooding.

2008 Mar 4. Polluted Worms Help Starling's Song, but Not Mating Fitness. By HENRY FOUNTAIN, NY Times. Excerpt: To the long list of the unintended effects of environmental contaminants, add one - eating polluted worms affects the songs of male starlings. What's more, the females seem to like it.Researchers from Cardiff University in Wales report in the open-access online journal PLoS One that male starlings that consume estrogen and similar compounds, chemicals normally found in sewage, showed brain and behavioral changes related to singing.
Shai Markman, now at the University of Haifa in Israel; Katherine L. Buchanan, now of Deakin University in Australia; and colleagues studied wild starlings foraging at sewage treatment works in southwestern Britain. The birds eat small worms found in huge quantities along filter beds.
The worms accumulate natural estrogen excreted in human waste and estrogenlike compounds from plastics manufacturing. The chemicals are known to disrupt endocrine function, with anatomical and behavioral effects. ...A male's song is one trait that helps to attract mates. The researchers found that females chose the males with more complex songs even though the contaminants had made them less fit. "Females are choosing to mate with males who are in poorer physical condition," Dr. Buchanan said, with potential effects on the number and survivability of offspring. So the simple act of eating tainted worms may be having an overall effect on starling populations, she added.

2008 February. Poultry workers 32 times more likely to carry resistant bacteria. Union of Concerned Scientists newlstter. Poultry workers are 32 times more likely than the average person to harbor E. coli bacteria that are resistant to the antibiotic gentamicin, according to a study by Johns Hopkins University researchers. The scientists compared stool samples from poultry workers with those from local community residents. The workers were also significantly more likely to harbor bacteria that were resistant to multiple drugs. The study concluded that occupational exposure to chickens may be "an important route of entry" for these dangerous bacteria into the community. Read the study, and send a letter to your members of Congress on legislation to address antibiotic resistance.

2008 February 2. Motivated by a Tax, Irish Spurn Plastic Bags. By ELISABETH ROSENTHAL, NY Times. Excerpt: DUBLIN - ...In 2002, Ireland passed a tax on plastic bags; customers who want them must now pay 33 cents per bag at the register. There was an advertising awareness campaign. And then something happened that was bigger than the sum of these parts. Within weeks, plastic bag use dropped 94 percent. Within a year, nearly everyone had bought reusable cloth bags, keeping them in offices and in the backs of cars. Plastic bags were not outlawed, but carrying them became socially unacceptable - on a par with wearing a fur coat or not cleaning up after one's dog. "When my roommate brings one in the flat it annoys the hell out of me," said Edel Egan, a photographer, carrying groceries last week in a red backpack. Drowning in a sea of plastic bags, countries from China to Australia, cities from San Francisco to New York have in the past year adopted a flurry of laws and regulations to address the problem, so far with mixed success. The New York City Council, for example, in the face of stiff resistance from business interests, passed a measure requiring only that stores that hand out plastic bags take them back for recycling. But in the parking lot of a Superquinn Market, Ireland's largest grocery chain, it is clear that the country is well into the post-plastic-bag era. "I used to get half a dozen with every shop. Now I'd never ever buy one," said Cathal McKeown, 40, a civil servant carrying two large black cloth bags bearing the bright green Superquinn motto. "If I forgot these, I'd just take the cart of groceries and put them loose in the boot of the car, rather than buy a bag."....


Biosphere 2 http://www.bio2.edu/

Environment & Ecosystems on the Net from SciLinks®

Environment & Ecosystems in NSTA Journal Articles--high school

Environment & Ecosystems in NSTA Journal Articles--intermediate

Books on the Environment & Ecosystems from NSTA Press and NSTA Recommends.



Earth Shots--Satellite Images of Environmental Change

Fair Trade Cocoa and Coffee

Genetic Engineering Marine/Ocean life Native Plants Organic Farming

Alibrandi, Marsha, GIS in the Classroom and CD-Rom. Heinemann Educational Books, Inc. Portsmouth, NH. 2003. ISBN 032500479X. Grade level: 9-12. Reviewed here (10/15/2003) by Eloise Farmer [GSS teacher leader and] Biology Teacher retiring in June after 37.5 years. The book would be useful with Life and Climate, since many suggested activities have students monitoring the effects of human activities on a variety of things on local bodies of water, or ecosystems in general. It also could be used with Ecosystem Change, or Changing Climate for the same reason. Students could use GIS to map changes in coastlines due to erosion, the effects of storms on an area, etc. It really emphasizes systems, so it could be used with any of the GSS books. This link tells how it has been used in a high school.

Organic Food - Restaurants, Farmers Markets, Coops

Subpages (1): 1998-2007